Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time, Wizards.

Well, now they’ve gone and done it. DCI-banned dirtbag Jeremy Hambly, with his libelous allegation that the Wizards Judge program is full of pedophiles, has done tremendous harm to Magic, which of course appears to be his intent. Not content to weather in dignified silence the ravings of a disaffected millennial memelord, Wizards of the Coast announced today that they’re requiring all WPN locations to conduct background checks of all employees and keep the results on file. It’s in the new paperwork, and we all need to have it done by February.

As Gary Ray says, it’s a problem because they’re basically passing the burden of an absurd allegation onto retailers at their expense. I have a different objection: I don’t expect WOTC to enforce it.

WOTC doesn’t want us to send them proof that we’ve conducted background checks on our employees. They want us to keep proof on file of the background checks, and make that proof available on request. It’s a great way to shift responsibility, because it adds no administrative burden to the publisher while still allowing them to say that they’re doing something. When some tournament organizer or store owner is inevitably caught doing something bad, WOTC can request the background check and act really surprised on the revelation told that no background check was performed. Then they can revoke the WPN status of the store, watch it go down in flames (to the extent that the offending event did not already doom it), and grant status to the next no-plan, no-capital card shack weeks or months later. That there is no actual protection against harm is beside the point. What’s important is that Wizards of the Coast is able to shrug and say that it’s not their fault that someone didn’t follow the rules.

Compliance with this new rule is going to cost my company about $100 per head, not counting the time spent having each employee fingerprinted, which conservatively brings the total to $150. I own a very small store, but I have six employees, plus my wife and myself, so this will cost $1,200, or approximately $400 more than my nearest competitor appears to have spent on the retail buildout from which they sell $85 booster boxes.

This is a requirement with very high compliance costs to my professionally-operated business, but zero costs to a clubhouse owner who wouldn’t know a profitable business  model if it came up to him in traffic and tapped on the windshield of his Ford Escort. The shacks can’t afford to spend the money to be compliant with the agreement. In most cases they couldn’t even afford matching folding chairs.

Please, Wizards of the Coast, I’m begging you to make a big deal out of enforcing this correctly. Have us all sign the thing saying that we’re going to conduct background checks. Six months later, out of the blue, start calling for proof, and revoke the WPN status of stores that aren’t compliant. I double-dog dare you to actually do what you’re only intending to appear to do.

I suspect that Wizards of the Coast won’t do this, and so the policy will be effectively unenforced. I’d really like to be proven wrong.